Town moves forward with purchase of Souza property for open space

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NORTH SMITHFIELD – In an unanimous vote Monday night, the Town Council authorized purchase of some 114 acres of open space, with plans to finance the $214,500 needed to supplement a grant from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. 

RIDEM announced in July that North Smithfield won a matching grant to help fund the land purchase through a Green Economy Bond aimed at preserving space, improving recreational facilities and cleaning up lands and waters across Rhode Island.

The vacant land was previously part of the historic Isaac Wilkinson homestead, a lot holding a 12-room estate built in 1829. Since at least September, councilors have been meeting with property owners in executive session to discuss the potential purchase.

On Monday, Aug. 17, councilors approved the next step in the process, authorizing town officials to sign a purchase and sales agreement for the vacant lot at 950 Old Smithfield Road, currently owned by the Souza Family Limited Partnership.

Land for open space was subdivided from a lot holding the historic Isaac Wilkinson homestead, a lot with a 12-room estate built in 1829. That property is currently listed for $650,900.

An effort to purchase the land has been spearheaded by the town planner, who applied for the grant earlier this year.

“I would just like to publicly thank the town planner Tom Kravitz for an exceptional job of putting together the application,” noted Councilor Paul Zwolenski this week. 

In addition to the contract, councilors had to authorize several housekeeping items for the town to receive the grant, including a title search and conservation easement. 

Kravitz noted that the work will not cost the town additional money.

“All of these items are reimbursed above and beyond the grant amount that DEM has already offered,” the planner said. 

Solicitor David Igliozzi explained that the easement – guaranteeing that the land will remain open space in perpetuity – is non negotiable.

“This is what DEM is paying for,” Igliozzi said. “DEM is giving you that money in order to have this conservation easement placed on that land so they can be assured that that land is going to remain that way.”

The council authorized the town to sign a purchase and sales not to exceed $429,000.

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